Our fifth school is open!

Posted on Jul 14, 2015

The Millione School at Gollu in the district of Bo was completed in August 2014. That was just when Ebola began to spread with a vengeance. Government efforts to stop the virus led to schools being closed and public gatherings banned. But with Ebola in check the school was officially opened in April this year. Today the kids are back.

The new school caters for 354 children (233 girls & 121 boys) with hopes of taking 100 more in future. There are 9 teachers – 8 men and 1 woman. And after the disruption of Ebola there is a lot of catching up to do.

During the Ebola year efforts were made to keep education going.

Khadija Mustapha

Khadija Mustapha

Khadija Mustapha, a twelve year old girl in class six said that during this period: “My teachers taught me mathematics and social studies twice every week so that I didn’t forget the things I was taught in school some 9 months ago. ActionAid also supplied us with reading and writing materials to support reading and writing in the homes.

 

Masida Kallon

Masida Kallon

 

Masida Kallon, a ten year old girl in class four said: “I like the school constructed for us in the community. Every week, I visited the school compound twice just to see the building. But I couldn’t use it due to Ebola. My parents are not educated enough to teach me at home. The teachers had to move from one house to another to help the pupils read. This is very difficult”.

And help came from abroad too. A Peace Corps volunteer based in California who had worked in the community ten years before provided radios for every household so that pupils could access government Radio teaching programs.

Despite these efforts the communities suffered. Action Aid’s staff in Gollu reported that with the schools closed and household incomes dropping as the markets shut down children, especially girls, were soon diverted into other activities. Getting them back into the educational system is now a priority.

Mothers Club Members

Mothers Club Members

The local management of the school has an important part to play in this effort. The 20 strong Mothers Club led by Chairlady Mariama Mohamed Koroma plays a key role. It is also involved in economic support activities, including the organisation of revolving loans to women with small businesses involved in agricultural activities such as groundnut, cassava and potato cultivation, palm oil trading and soap making.

The new school has a similar design to our previous five. The report from Gollu says:

► The new building has six classrooms, a small office for teachers and a storeroom for school equipment. With a roof, the new school will protect students and teachers from rain and heat

► Separate bathrooms were constructed for girls and boys, providing ventilated, private latrines. The separate bathrooms will give girls access to private, safe toilets, which will greatly help increase the enrolment and attendance of female students

► A water well with a hand pump was also constructed at the school. This will provide access to clean drinking water for all students and allow girls to stay in lessons instead of having to collect water for fellow students.

► Teaching, learning and recreational materials were given to the school. In addition to exercise books, notebooks, chalkboards, pens, rulers and other school resources, footballs and jerseys were provided – inspiring students to start planning lunch time games.

Building Gollu School

Building Gollu School

During the opening ceremony Martin Goba, Deputy Chairman of the Bo District Council, encouraged all parents and community members to support the school and enrol their children. He told them, “Education is the only legacy that parents can give their children that cannot be taken or lessened by any other individual.”

Isatu Magbie

Isatu Magbie

 

Isatu Magbie a 46 years old community woman who has 3 children at the school said: “The children in the primary school are progressing with their school work but the major challenge that used to disturb education in this community is that most parents were unable to support their children’s education when they attain secondary school, due to poverty. This is what is responsible for the high level of dropout we are experiencing. Our girl children also used to be challenged with peer pressure influencing them to engage in pre-marital sex. However there is now improvement as the attitudes of people are changing due to increased awareness within the community. Thanks to ActionAid and donors for the Millione project”.

Hawanatu thanks supporters for the new school

Hawanatu thanks supporters for the new school

Speaking for the students Hawanatu Kafula, a student from Gollu, closed the ceremony by thanking all involved:

“On behalf of the students and teachers of the school, we say a big thank you to the Millione Foundation for providing this beautiful school for us. We have been given an opportunity to help transform our lives. We now have water and good toilet facilities that will help us stay in lessons and learn more. We thank the donors for their care and support to the Gollu community.”

This is just the beginning. Now that the school is up and running they say the next steps are to:

► Strengthen the governance structures of the school, for example by providing training to the School Management Committee

► Continue work with the local community to improve awareness of the importance of education, particularly for girls

► Continue to support women’s livelihood initiatives

Watch this space.

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